I love visiting the folks at Occupy Wall Street. It is a very empowering thing. For me it feels like the seed of our first global revolution. We’ve had lots of revolutions. The French one was big. Lost lots of heads in that one. The Cuban revolution made quite a splash.
But we have never had a global revolution yet. Here is what I predict will happen.
The movement will grow until it is in every city in the world. It will get criticized for not having a focus and for being a fringe movement. But then one day, in the flash it takes to send a twitter message, we will collectively discover our focus, and it will be about implementing a new system.
And then all at once we will act.
How we act is still a mystery. Whether it is violent or peaceful, or a bit of both, whether it is a collapse from the top or an uprising from the bottom, or both, whether it is brought on by a catastrophe, either ecological or ethical, or both, or whether it is all of the above, I don’t know.
The only thing clear to me is that what is happening at Zuccotti Park is a small fractal of what will soon happen on every city park in the world.
This one is big. Bigger than we have ever seen. It is the 60’s without the debilitating drugs and philosophy.
Of course we don’t have a focus. This is not an intellectual movement. This is a gut reaction to a lifetime of feeling, “There is something wrong with this picture but I can’t quite put my finger on it.” The fact that we haven’t put a label to it is great. It needs to grow some more before we put it into a box.
My first time to the park I went home and watched Mad Men, the TV show about New York advertising execs in the 1950’s. Seeing the two things contrasted so closely I realized that the Occupy Wall Street has been a long time coming. I say we are reacting to things put in motion in the 1950’s.
The 1950’s was when technology and capitalism really found their power, especially in the USA. “The magic of plastic”. It is really when technology allowed Wall Street to go global and exponentially increase their profit reaping power.
It was an abuse of power. I suspect we will keep the technology after the revolution. But we will look back at this time and point to it as an example of when technology was abused.
I am a green builder and as such put ecology before everything. Before money, technology, even the client – money and technology are tools and the client is a partner but they are not the end all.
One of the things I feel is weak in the current Occupy Wall Street movement is the ecological side. The movement is still very human centric. It is still focused on what humans are doing wrong and on what the revolutionaries want as humans.
This focus is obvious and those issues need to be addressed. But in my eyes they are only stepping stones to what is really important – healing our disconnect with the planet.
It is not enough that we stop stepping on each other. We need to stop stepping on plants and animals as well. Oppression is oppression and as long as plants and animals are oppressed we will never get out of the cycle where in order to exist something else must not.
The best example I can think of is the way Eco Brooklyn designs the plumbing in a New York Brownstone. Your typical brownstone wastes water. In a world where water is scarce you may think our focus is to conserve water. As in xeriscaping the garden so it doesn’t need water for example.
But we actually design the home so that our “problem” is that we have too much water. Out of scarcity we create abundance. How? By changing the SYSTEM.
We do this by channeling all the water from the showers and bath sinks to a tank. This tank feeds the toilets. But because the water produced is much more than what the toilets need we have a lot more water than normal.
This water is passed to the green roof, living wall, and gardens. The water is full of nutrients the plants love – soap etc. The home becomes a lush landscape more similar to a tropical garden than a northern barren city garden.
So instead of a home that doesn’t have enough water we create one that has more than enough while using the same amount of water.
The trick is in the SYSTEM. Same people. Different SYSTEM.
When Occupy Wall Street discovers a better system we will be ready.
One place to start may be the Planet, People, Profit business trifecta. Right now profit is the only purpose of your typical company. This is because the system is set up that way.
For example, contractors in New York throw away the old beams, floors and studs in a brownstone when they renovate. They replace it with new stuff. They do this because salvaging and storing old materials takes time and money. It is cheaper to throw it away. And it is perfectly legal.
Likewise buying new stuff is cheap because it is highly subsidized and does not factor in the hidden costs. When a company clear cuts a mountain, the soil erodes, the river gets dirty and whole ecosystems within thousands of miles of the mountain is destroyed.
Who pays for that? Not the company. These hidden costs are sometimes subsidized by taxes. A government may pay to clean up a river. And sometimes they are paid for directly by people. The death of a river may mean the death of a fishing community. Or it may mean increased sickness, which in turn means more medical expenses.
The web is infinite.
Likewise paying the workers as little as the market will bear makes the most money. Or so goes the common wisdom of today’s company. But a poor worker has increased medical needs, increased criminal problems, and increased isolation from the world. These are all hidden costs.
In today’s system almost everything we buy is highly subsidized due to nobody paying these hidden costs up front. The current system may have seemed logical at first, when humans were small in number with reasonable needs and nature could replenish faster than humans could destroy.
But then came Madmen. Technology increased our ability to not only produce but our ability to consume. All of a sudden there were all these things we were told we needed…all in the name of prosperity….or Profit.
In today’s system Planet and People are not as valued as Profit. It is not about the evil people. With the inevitable exception of the genetic need to mutate and be different, most people are who they are depending on their system. Treat a human like a dog and most likely they will bite you or cower at your feet. Treat them with dignity and most likely they will reciprocate.
What if it were illegal to throw old wood out from a New York brownstone? What if all the money spent on trashing wood were channeled to storage and distribution areas? What if the hidden costs were factored into the new clear cut wood? This is a system based on Planet, People, and Profit.
The answer is simple: contractors would save and reuse the old wood and not buy new wood. All of a sudden contractors would help make the world a greener place. Same people, different system.
And if you educate them WHY they are doing this they will understand. A good system is always easy to implement and easy to understand. A good system makes people feel good. It makes them feel connected to the world around them.
There will always be some people who don’t like it. There will always be parts of the planet that are destroyed. Genetics requires difference and change. A good system accommodates that too.